Kildare and Wicklow ETB – Protected Disclosures

Kildare and Wicklow ETB

Policy for the making of Protected Disclosures

by Kildare and Wicklow ETB Workers

1. Introduction

1.1 Kildare and Wicklow ETB is committed to the highest possible standards of compliance with our legal obligations.

1.2 Kildare and Wicklow ETB values transparency and accountability in its administrative and management practices. This policy therefore supports a culture that:
• gives a voice in matters of ethics;
• enhances an environment where people feel safe in discussing genuine and legitimate concerns about governance and ethical behaviour; and
• questions inappropriate behaviour at all levels throughout the organisation.

1.3 This policy is intended to encourage and enable Kildare and Wicklow ETB workers to raise serious concerns within Kildare and Wicklow ETB in the first instance prior to seeking resolution outside of the ETB. Under this policy a Kildare and Wicklow ETB worker can make a protected disclosure without fear of penalisation or threat of less favourable treatment, subsequent discrimination or disadvantage.

1.4 This policy aims to give effect to the obligations and provisions of the Protected Disclosure Act 2014 and does not replace any legal reporting or disclosure requirements arising under other legislation. Where other statutory reporting requirements or procedures exist these must be fully complied with.

1.5 This policy does not replace Kildare and Wicklow ETB grievance procedures, in particular where the issue relates to an individual worker’s contract of employment this matter should be referred under the Grievance Procedure.

1.6 Kildare and Wicklow ETB Code of Ethics requires all staff to observe the highest legal, management and ethical standards in the conduct of their duties and responsibilities.

2. Who is covered by this policy?

2.1 This policy applies to all Kildare and Wicklow ETB ‘workers’ i.e. Kildare and Wicklow ETB employees at all levels, contractors, trainees, agency staff, former employees, interns, persons on work experience and volunteers.

3. Aim of Policy

3.1 The aim of this policy is to enable Kildare and Wicklow ETB workers to make protected disclosures of relevant wrongdoings that come to their attention during the course of their employment, in the public interest and without fear of suffering consequential detriment.

3.2 ‘Relevant Wrongdoings’ for the purpose of the Protected Disclosure Act 2014 are;
• The commission of an offence
• A miscarriage of justice
• Non-compliance with a legal obligation
• Health and safety threats
• Misuse of public funds
• Mismanagement by a public official
• Damage to the environment
• Conceal or destruction of information on the above

4. Acting in Good Faith

4.1 Any protected disclosure made in good faith is fully protected by this policy, even if the disclosure, report, or concern is, following investigation, is not substantiated.

4.2 It must however, be the reasonable belief of the Kildare and Wicklow ETB worker that the content of their protected disclosure tends to show one or more relevant wrongdoings as prescribed by the Protected Disclosure Act 2014 and that this information has come to their attention during the course of their employment.

4.3 If an investigation uncovers that a protected disclosure has been made vexatiously, maliciously or frivolously, such findings will be treated as a very serious matter by Kildare and Wicklow ETB and may result in disciplinary action or other such action being taken where appropriate.

5. Protected Disclosures

5.1 General
(a) A protected disclosure should be made at the earliest opportunity to allow Kildare and Wicklow ETB to take all necessary action expeditiously.

5.2 Protected Disclosures made by Kildare and Wicklow ETB Worker
(a) In most cases a Kildare and Wicklow ETB worker should make a protected disclosure to their immediate manager.
(b) Should the protected disclosure relate to the relevant manager, then the matter should be referred to the KWETB Director of Schools or other persons nominated by the Chief Executive.

5.3 Format of Protected Disclosures
(a) Where possible, protected disclosures should be expressed in writing and provide as much detail as possible. Ideally the written protected disclosure should contain the following information;
• the background to the disclosure,
• the history of the disclosure,
• the reason for the disclosure,
• the names of those believed to be involved,
• the dates relevant to the disclosure, and
• the places relevant to the disclosure
(b) However, if the worker does not feel able to put the protected disclosure in writing, he/she may telephone or meet with the person to whom they should make the protected disclosure.

5.4 The Processing of Protected Disclosures

5.4.1 The person to whom the initial protected disclosure is made shall normally carry out the inquiry/ investigation into the allegation. However, alternative appropriate persons may carry out the inquiry/ investigation, with the approval of the Chief Executive.

5.4.2 All protected disclosures shall be managed confidentially under these procedures, in so far as is possible (see 6 below).

5.4.3 Prompt and appropriate initial inquiries will be undertaken in order to ascertain whether further investigation is warranted and, if so, in order to decide what form such an investigation should take. Any such investigation will be carried out promptly and appropriate corrective action will be taken.

5.4.4 After initial inquiries, it may become clear that the matter can be resolved without the need for further investigation.

5.4.5 The IAU ETB will be notified of any alleged fraud or irregularity and of the planned investigation into same.

5.4.6 The worker will receive a formal acknowledgement of receipt of the protected disclosure and an outline of how it is proposed to deal with the disclosure within 10 working days.

5.4.7 If the worker so requests, he/she will be informed of the outcome of the inquiry/ investigation, in so far as is possible and subject to any legal constraints.
If the investigation results in an outcome that is not to the worker’s satisfaction, the matter may be referred to the Director of Schools, Chief Executive, or Chairperson of KWETB, as appropriate.

5.4.8 In the event that the matter is referred to the Chairperson, he/she may consult with the Chief Executive or appropriate members of staff for advice provided the investigation of the protected disclosure does not involve these members of staff.
In exceptional circumstances, the Chairperson may request an external third party to investigate or to otherwise provide advice, subject to the approval of the Department of Education and Skills.

6. Anonymous Protected Disclosures

6.1 Anonymous protected disclosures are much less persuasive than those made by a Kildare and Wicklow ETB worker who is willing to be identified. Nevertheless, Kildare and Wicklow ETB will consider anonymous disclosures, having regard to the following:
• The seriousness of the disclosure made.
• The credibility of the content of the disclosure.
• The likelihood of being able to prove or otherwise the allegations being made.
• The availability of credible sources of information.

7. Protected Disclosures made to persons outside of Kildare and Wicklow ETB

7.1 Kildare and Wicklow ETB workers are encouraged to raise their concerns under this protected disclosure policy in the first instance. However it is recognised that this may not always be appropriate therefore this policy, in line with the Protected Disclosure Act 2014 provides for external reporting to ‘Prescribed Persons’ and to ‘Others’.

7.2 If a Kildare and Wicklow ETB worker has reason to believe that;
• he/she would be penalised, or
• the evidence relating to the relevant wrongdoing would be concealed or destroyed in the event of an internal disclosure,
• he/she had previously made a protected disclosure of substantially the same information under the internal process or to a Prescribed Person; or
• the relevant wrongdoing is of an exceptionally serious nature.
In such circumstances provided the worker;
• reasonably believes that the information disclosed and any allegation contained therein are substantially true; and
• the disclosure is not made for personal gain and it is a reasonable disclosure to make;
the worker may make a disclosure to a person other than Kildare and Wicklow ETB provided it is reasonable to make a disclosure to that person bearing in mind;
• the identity of the person to whom the disclosure is made,
• the seriousness of the relevant wrongdoing,
• whether the relevant wrongdoing is continuing or is likely to occur in the future,
• any action which Kildare and Wicklow ETB or the person to whom the previous disclosure was made has taken or might reasonably be expected to have taken as a result of the previous disclosure.

8. Protection of Workers

8.1 Kildare and Wicklow ETB is committed to this policy. If a Kildare and Wicklow ETB worker makes a protected disclosure in good faith, the ETB undertakes not to penalise or victimise the worker for making such a disclosure.

8.2 A worker making a protected disclosure shall:
• Be protected from dismissal
• Be protected from penalisation
• Have a right to anonymity insofar as is possible (not a guarantee)
• Have a right of action in tort for harassment or intimidation
• Be protected from criminal proceedings
• Have civil immunity in an action for damages/defence of qualified privilege

9. Confidentiality

9.1 All protected disclosures will be treated in confidence unless the worker clearly states that they do not object to having their name associated with the protected disclosure.

9.2 Protected Disclosures will be kept secure and in a form that that does not endanger confidentiality of the person making the disclosure. The focus will at all times be on the information in the disclosure rather than the identity of the worker making the disclosure.

9.3 At the appropriate time, however, the identity of the person making the disclosure may need to be revealed if it is necessary for the investigation and in accordance with the principles of natural justice and fair procedures.

9.4 Kildare and Wicklow ETB workers should be aware that evidence, either written or verbal, may be required in court proceedings.

10. A Worker who is the Subject of a Disclosure

10.1 A Kildare and Wicklow ETB worker who is the subject of a protected disclosure is entitled to fair treatment.

10.2 While an investigation is on-going, all reasonable steps will be taken to protect the confidentiality of those who are the subject of allegations in a protected disclosure pending the outcome of the investigation.

11. Record keeping
11.1 Records will be kept securely by Kildare and Wicklow ETB. Access will be restricted to those directly involved in investigating of the disclosure and to the Chief Executive.

11.2 The Chairperson of the ETB Board will keep a secure and confidential record of all matters that have been raised through this policy and dealt with by him/her.

11.3 In respect of anonymous disclosures, should it be decided that no further action is to be taken, details of such disclosures and the reasons for taking no further actions will be recorded.

12. Communication of the Policy
12.1 All Kildare and Wicklow ETB workers will be made aware of this policy.
12.2 This policy should be available on the ETB’s website.
12.3 New workers should receive a copy of this policy as part of their induction and it should be made available on request.
Adopted by: Kildare and Wicklow Education and Training Board
Date: 14th March , 2017
Version: 01